Baseball and softball teams representing RBI programs from Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh were welcomed at the Marriott Hotel in Cleveland Thursday night by tournament director John Carter and others on the eve of the RBI East Regional.
Pool play in all divisions takes place Friday, June 11 and Saturday, June 12 with championship games being played Sunday, June 13.
With all players and coaches assembled in the hotel ballroom ,Mr. Carter introduced himself as the tournament host. He said he was hopeful for good weather (aren’t we all!). He laid down a few ground rules for the kids and previewed the group’s visit to Progressive Field Friday night for the game between the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians. All the kids from the various cities will be clad in identical black RBI t-shirts and will accupy a block of seats in center field. Be watching for them on TV!
Next, Tom Welsh, Board President for the Cleveland Baseball Federation, stepped forward to welcome everyone to Cleveland and to introduce the special guest speaker, former major leaguer Matt Kata.
Kata graduated from St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland in 1996 before attending Vanderbilt University. He was drafted in the 9th round in 1999 by the Arizona Diamondbacks and made his major league debut on June 15, 2003. He played 14 professional seasons with a career batting average of .239 with 12 home runs and 63 runs batted in.
Kata opened by congratulating all the kids on making the trip. He talked about his love of baseball as a child and his dream of making it to the big leagues. He then set about giving his young audience some positive advice about how to succeed in achieving their own dreams, whatever they may be.
First, he told the kids to set goals. He said, “Have a vision. What is your ‘Why’? Why do you get up in the morning?” While he was talking about his own background in baseball, he was giving advice that translates into life. He told the kids to go through the process to achieve the goal, no matter if the goal was to be a baseball player, a doctor, or a lawyer, the process is the same.
Secondly, he said for the kids to see themselves achieving their goal, sharing some of his father’s advice. He said, “Reach for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll still reach the stars.” The key to this is preparation, he said. “Preparation is always in season,” he told everyone. Kata said to always be preparing to reach that goal, whether on the diamond or in school.
Finally, Kata talked about effort. “I wasn’t always the best player, but no one was going to out-work me.” He said everyone has to put in the hard work to reach their goals in life. “Life is tough, you’ve got to be tougher,” he said.
While certainly the number one priority this weekend for these kids is to have fun playing baseball or softball, maybe they can learn something about life along the way. The similarities between success on the diamond and success in life are abundant. Maybe there was a future Major League baseball player in the room tonight, but there were definitely future life players in attendance. Hopefully, the great advice from Matt Kata will stick with these kids both this weekend and beyond. It is advice they can surely use to better themselves, and their communities.
Now, PLAY BALL!